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Black LGBTQ+ Mental Health Matters: A Conversation with Mental Health Expert Dr. Mahogany Hall

Black LGBTQ+ Mental Health Matters: A Conversation with Mental Health Expert Dr. Mahogany Hall

Even as mental health is becoming normalized in Black communities, being Black, LGBTQ+, and seeking mental health support can still be challenging. If you feel like you need help but don’t know where to turn, BGN has your back. We reached out to Dr. Mahogany Hall to provide some mental health tips for any of our Black LGBTQ+ siblings in need of support. Dr. Hall is the owner/founder of Hall Counseling Services LLC, a group practice specializing in treating racial trauma and working with LGBTQ+ communities. Her specialties include helping adolescents, adults, couples with depression, trauma, attachment, sexual orientation/identity, and acculturation. 

Talk to me about some of the biggest challenges that Black LGBTQ+ communities face when seeking therapy.

Many Black people think of LGBTQ+ as just being “homosexuality,” which has always been taboo in the Black community, which is problematic. I’ve also noticed Black men take a little bit longer to warm up and talk about their sexual orientation.

Why is it important for Black LGBTQ+ folks who are seeking therapy to find Black LGBTQ+ therapists?

I am a Black queer woman. My practice specializes in racial trauma in the LGBTQIA community. People come to us because they know that we get it. They know our clinicians are trained in racial trauma and are comfortable working with the LGBTQ+ community. When you go to a therapist who cannot relate to you, it’s almost like speaking a foreign language. The patient has to educate the therapist instead of being taken care of. Your therapist should be culturally competent and allow the general conversation to flow to build trust.

What are three ways that folks can use to find a culturally competent therapist?

First, search for websites with a database of therapists of color, like Therapy for Black Girls.com or thisisdarkbeauty.com and Therapy for Black Men.org. Look for places where you don’t have to do a lot of the hard legwork to find a therapist of color.

Second, once you have a small selection of therapists, take the time to interview them. I always tell people the therapist works for the client, so go in with well-thought-out questions ready and try to figure out if this person is a match for you. It’s like a two-way job interview. If one person isn’t right, it’s okay to look around.

Third, recognize that it can be complicated to find therapists of color in your insurance plan or who are compatible with your budget. It never hurts to engage in certain types of communities through specific mental help groups on Meetup.com. Search out group therapy. You can also ask other people you know if they can recommend someone to you. Be creative and find ways to network. Many of our clients found out about us from word of mouth referrals from other clients.

As Black LGBTQ+ folks are coming forward in Black society as trailblazers, what can they do to protect and care for themselves as they educate their brothers and sisters?

Oh, that’s loaded. First and foremost, always practice self-care: physical activity, yoga, exercise, meditation, mindfulness, or therapy. Whatever that looks like to each individual. One thing that I think people are getting right is learning how to cope with differences of opinion. No human being is always going to be accepted by any one group or population of people. So, make peace with the fact that not everybody will love you, accept you, and welcome you into their home with open arms. It just won’t happen. 

Similarly to people being racist and not liking you because of your skin color, people will dislike you because of your sexual orientation. Like I tell my clients, you have to let other people’s stuff be their stuff and not take on somebody else’s issues. If somebody else hates you or hates someone around you, that negativity is not your story. You don’t have to take on that energy. As long as there’s not a safety issue, stay away from it as much as you can. Learning to cope with people with ignorant opinions is essential self-care.

Surround yourself with people who support you—any type of circle. It can be friends, but more importantly, it should be people who accept you whether they share your story and your sentiments or not. Being around people who just love you unconditionally is essential, and placing yourself in low-stress situations where you don’t have to be educating people is vital. Make a goal of not carrying any guilt or shame for not continually educating people about this population. You’re not responsible for holding the weight of the world on your shoulders.

How does connecting to joy factor into your work?

I love the work that I do. My clients bring me joy. Gratitude also factors in. When my clients focus on gratitude, they find joy in so many challenging situations. For a Black person to gain satisfaction from therapy is like the most beautiful oxymoron because we don’t do therapy. That wasn’t a “Black thing” historically. Shifting that narrative just is a lovely process that brings me a tremendous amount of joy.

Dr. Mahogany Hall is a licensed clinical social worker with a doctorate of social work from the University of Southern California. She received her master’s degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and her bachelor’s degrees in psychology and African and African American studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Hall has traveled throughout the United States assisting children and families for Fairfax County government in Northern Virginia. She has also served as a clinician for Fairfax County public schools.

Modalities: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), motivational interviewing (MI) https://hallcounselingservices.com/about/

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